Details about Geoffrey King’s life are mostly unknown. His place and date of birth (and death) are seemingly unrecorded. In adulthood, he became a fellow of King’s College Cambridge. King has a double claim to be remembered. First he was chosen to be part of the team of Lancelot Andrewes at Westminster, which translated the first books of the Old Testament. Secondly, he became Professor of Hebrew at King’s College, Cambridge, succeeding Robert Spaulding.
Of the Westminster group, Nicolson says:
Several of Andrewes’ team remain little more than names: Richard Clarke, a fellow of Christ’s college, Cambridge, whose sermons were said to be “a continent of mud’; Robert Tighe, vicar of All Hallows, Barking, the church in which Lancelot Andrewes had been christened; Geoffrey King, another Christ’s man, and in time Professor of Hebrew at Cambridge; and Francis Burleigh, who had been a scholar at Pembroke, Andrewes’ own college. Even among the obscure the connections continued to work. Those four have the look of workhorses, men flattered to be included, who could be asked to do much of the legwork. . .(1)
The influence of Hugh Broughton
King was reputed to be a personal friend of the controversialist Hugh Broughton (1549–1612). This gives us a clue as to whether King was dedicated to the mastery of Hebrew. Broughton was distinguished both in preaching and intense study, becoming an outstanding Hebrew scholar. He was thus intensely disappointed not to be invited to join the KJV translation committee.
Since his learning was beyond question, their refusal to give due recognition to Broughton's merits as a scholar was no credit to the selectors of the Authorized Version. However, it may be justly assumed that he was not invited to co-operate on account of his arrogance and intolerance. Because he was so waspish and cantankerous in controversy, other scholars were unwilling to associate with him. He would have been a troublesome collaborator.(2)
Broughton put himself offside with fellow scholars by a habit of writing excessive negative criticism concerning the writings and ministry of others. His first book was itself attacked in public lectures by two key members of the KJV committee, John Rainolds, president of Corpus Christi College, Oxford, and by Edward Lively, Regius professor of Hebrew at Cambridge.
Notwithstanding these reservations, and despite his intemperate outbursts, Hugh Broughton was a popular teacher and much loved by those he taught. He is said to have been a jovial dinner companion and a loyal friend. Whether as a pupil or colleague, Geoffrey King would have been much influenced by Broughton’s views as to the nature, importance and need for serious Hebrew study. It is thus important to understand Broughton’s views.
Broughton's writings demonstrate that he may justifiably be regarded as the most proficient English Hebraist of his day. Not only was he able to read the Old Testament in the original, he was familiar at first hand with a wide range of post-biblical Jewish authors. His contribution to Old Testament studies includes a translation of Daniel into English and Latin with explanatory notes and comments (1596), a commentary on Ecclesiastes with an accompanying English translation of the text (1605), an English rendering of Lamentations (1606), and an English version of the book of Job (1610). In what became known as the ‘battle of the vowel points’ Broughton shared the rabbinic attitude towards the Masoretic vocalization of the Hebrew Bible. He argued against the Catholics that the vowels were a part of the original text, not a late invention of the rabbis and therefore untrustworthy. (2)
Broughton dedicated himself to the interpretation of biblical apocalyptic writings. To succeed in this he believed it needed to be based on a thorough mastery of Hebrew and the study of traditional Jewish exegesis. In teaching his students privately, he believed daily Bible readings and conversations in Hebrew were essential. Samuel Clarke claimed that in Broughton's published works:
[T]he serious and impartial reader will find … a winning and inciting enforcement to the reading of the Scriptures, with a greater seriousness, and more than ordinary searching into them. . . . [Among ordinary students] some such there were, that being excited and stirred up by his books, applied themselves to the study of the Hebrew tongue and attained to a great measure of skill and knowledge therein. (2)
Influence upon on the new translationAs a friend of Broughton, Geoffrey King would have sought his advice on various questions of translation.
Among the papers of John Rainolds are some Broughton comments and advice set down with respect for his learning. Broughton made his own partial version from the Bible from which the King James men appear to have taken some wordings. Speaking of wild horses, Broughton said of the horse, in Job 39:19, “Canst thou clothe his neck with thunder? . . . . Thunder is a figure for that which quivers; what a splendid phrase we lose if we object to “clothed his neck with thunder.” We can thank rabid Hugh Broughton for his inspired word.(3)